Social media is definitely here to stay, and by now should be a key part of any marketer’s strategy. However, like the internet as a whole, it is constantly changing, with new features being added – and old ones removed – platforms launching and audiences evolving. With that in mind, what are the upcoming trends and predictions set to affect social media this year?
Snapchat plans expansion
Snapchat has long been popular with its original teen and young adult demographic, but now Snap Inc – the company behind the picture and video sharing platform – is going after a broader audience as it looks to expand, and this could be good news for marketers. The firm has already branched out into selling physical products with the launch of its Spectacles – although these are not yet available in the UK – and is looking into ways to make the app as appealing as possible to all users in order to boost revenue and make it attractive to investors.
As a result, the app has recently been given a facelift, with the focus on making it easy to navigate. Traditionally, Snapchat has had a relatively steep learning curve that relied on users memorising swipes and gestures in order to access all of its features, but that has since changed. The latest update, which was rolled out to iPhone users in late January, sees the introduction of a universal search app, making it easier to find friends and publishers. This could also potentially be good news for marketers, as it paves the way for Snapchat introducing search-based ads.
Instagram continues to monetise
Instagram’s popularity shows no sign of wavering in 2017. In December 2016, the image sharing service surpassed 600 million users – with 100 million of them joining in the preceding six months alone – and it is likely to go from strength to strength this year.
The service was bought by Facebook for $1 billion (£802 million) in cash and stock in 2014, and since then Facebook has been working on ways to monetise its acquisition. Ads in users’ feeds are now a relatively common site, and Instagram announced earlier this year it will also be introducing ads to Stories – a collection of videos and still images that can be collated by users and brands for sharing with their followers.
More than 160 million people use Stories every day, so the ads have the potential to reach a great number of users. The feature borrows heavily from Snapchat’s own Stories feature and has seemingly helped convince some users to switch platform. Snapchat used to run ads in its Stories, but stopped them towards the end of last year.
More new features have come to Instagram lately in the form of Instagram Live, which lets users share video with their followers in real-time, as well as photos that delete themselves within a set time period – again similar to an existing Snapchat feature. Another new feature – allowing users to post multiple photos at once – is also said to be in the works.
Facebook keeps pace
Facebook is a relatively old name in the fast-moving world of social media, but it remains a big player that deserves marketers’ attention in 2017. The firm recently stepped up its efforts to make it easy for marketers to accurately measure the performance of their campaigns by expanding its partnerships with Nielsen. The company’s Digital Ad Ratings offering is now available to customers in 25 countries, letting them measure the reach and performance of their ads on both Facebook’s desktop site and mobile apps.
The company has also incorporated some of the features rolled out to Instagram – notably Facebook Live, which was launched last year. It allows any Facebook user to broadcast a live stream to friends and followers, and was rolled out in conjunction with a large-scale advertising campaign from Facebook.
LinkedIn differs from the majority of social networks in that is primarily focused on professional networking, but that does not mean it is not worth considering for marketers – especially if you know the site is a popular tool within the industry you are targeting. Earlier this year, LinkedIn rolled out what is its biggest redesign to date, bringing a fresh new look that is cleaner and easier to navigate. The redesign brings the layout closer to that used by Facebook – cover photos that sit at the top of a profile are now present – and also includes new messaging features designed to make it easier to build networks.
What about Twitter?
Twitter remains popular among users, but the site has seen growth slow lately and it is struggling financially. The social networking site recently published its latest financial results, showing a loss of £133 million for the final quarter of 2016, almost double the figure for the same period in 2015. User numbers stood at 319 million – slightly less than analysts had predicted – and shares in the company fell following the announcement.
In terms of features, Twitter is working on new filtering tools as it continues to combat abusive online behaviour from trolls. If it can get a handle on this, the site may be able to tackle the financial issues that are hampering growth.